When Somaliland signed an MoU with Ethiopia on New Year’s Day, regional tensions cranked up a few notches. Now its top diplomat, Essa Kayd is hoping to drum up UK and French support.

Somaliland’s foreign minister, Essa Kayd, is due to travel to London this weekend and then to Paris from March 11–14 for a meeting at the French Senate with the France-Horn of Africa Friendship Group. This is made up of members of the Foreign Affairs Committee, including Cédric Perrin and Olivier Cadic, who was in Hargeisa last July.

The trip comes in the wake of a memorandum of understanding Somaliland signed with Ethiopia on January 1, which theoretically grants Addis Ababa access to the Red Sea in exchange for giving consideration to the recognition of Somaliland’s independence (AI, 15/01/24).


In London, Essa Kayd is due to attend an event organized by the Somaliland diaspora to defend the MoU, which caused considerable consternation in the Horn of Africa just a few weeks before the African Union’s 18 February summit. Somalia, which like the rest of the world does not recognise the independence of Somaliland (self-proclaimed in 1991), has embarked on its own diplomatic tour to rally countries against the deal (AI,  26/01/24).

Somaliland’s Top Diplomat Due In London And Paris To Defend Ethiopia Deal
Dr. Essa Kayd Mohamud, Somaliland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation,

Meeting with major companies

The minister’s Paris schedule has not yet been finalized, but his diplomats are also hoping to secure high-level meetings with major French companies such as CMA CGM and its recently acquired Bolloré Logistics to convince them to invest in the country, where infrastructure and logistics needs are booming.

Essa Kayd may well talk up the free zone at the port of Berbera, which is already home to around 70 companies and has room for some 400. For the time being, only bioMérieux, which specializes in the diagnosis of infectious diseases, has expressed an interest in a possible meeting with the minister. It already has a presence in Kenya and hopes to expand in East Africa.

Somaliland’s Top Diplomat Due In London And Paris To Defend Ethiopia DealGiven the non-recognition of its sovereign status, there are no foreign embassies in Somaliland,  although the UK has set up a representative office there.

While London and the European Union publicly reiterated the importance of respecting Somalia’s territorial integrity after the MoU was signed, several European countries, including France, are considering working more closely with Somaliland. But the nature of this rapprochement is still being debated.